Report Title:

Bridge to Hope Program; TANF



Expands the bridge to hope program to enable all heads of households receiving financial assistance and participating in first-to-work to pursue education beyond the federal limit of one-year of vocational education.



H.B. NO.













relating to bridge to hope program.





     SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that recent changes to the federal temporary assistance to needy families program rules prohibiting baccalaureate education as countable work activities and limiting educational activities to one year of vocational education are not consistent with the State's desire to include education and training as one of the pathways to economic self-sufficiency.  The department of human services implemented an expanded education policy for first-to-work participants but the statute creating the bridge to hope education program only mentions the Temporary Assistance and Needy Families Program participants while Temporary Assistance to Other Needy Families participants now utilize the expanded education options (because of the federal limitations on educational activities). 

     The federal Interim Final Rule for the Reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program (45 CFR Part 261, June 29, 2006), provides in pertinent part:

     "Vocational educational training (not to exceed 12 months with respect to any individual) means organized educational programs that are directly related to the preparation of individuals for employment in current or emerging occupations requiring training other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree."  (Emphasis added.)

The effect of the new federal regulation is that vocational education training for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program recipients excludes post-secondary education that would permit an individual to earn a bachelor's or advanced degree.  The legislature finds that excluding the pursuit of a bachelor or advanced degree as counting toward vocational educational training is contrary to Hawaii's desire to include education as well as training as one of the pathways to economic self-sufficiency, and ultimately economic growth.

     Since July 2001, the University of Hawaii's bridge to hope student employment and academic program has served over six hundred individuals under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program, with one hundred fifty earning an associate of arts degree and seventy earning an associate of arts degree.  These students are heads of households in the Temporary Assistance and Needy Families Program.

     The State's bridge hope program was enacted by Act 276, Session Laws of Hawaii 2000, which states, in pertinent part, in section 1:

     "The vast majority of public assistance recipients share the community values of parental responsibility and work ethic, and will accept financial responsibility for themselves and their children when given a real opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency.  However, many barriers to work frustrate the best efforts of public assistance recipients to join the work force on a permanent basis.  Moreover, strong competition for scarce jobs often leaves behind those with little experience or education.

     Over ninety per cent of assistance households are currently headed by women.  Since approximately two-thirds of all women in Hawaii are working in sales, clerical, and service type jobs, which receive the lowest wages, it is unlikely that the majority of assistance households will be able to move out of poverty and be self-sufficient without adding to their knowledge and skills to increase their earning capacity.

     Toward that end, the legislature finds that transitional benefits are needed to provide the necessary support to enable recipients to secure education and training beyond high school.

     The purpose of this Act is to support the successful transition from public assistance to self-sufficiency through a transitional benefits program for public assistance recipients.

     It is the intent of this Act to encourage the department of human services, through the financial assistance advisory committee, to work in collaboration with the University of Hawaii to establish policies that encourage the pursuit and successful completion of higher education for single parents and their children to achieve a stable future."

     The legislature finds that existing law needs to be clarified to preserve the intent of Act 276, Session Laws of Hawaii 2000, and to simultaneously comply with federal law.

     The purpose of this Act is to clarify the bridge to hope program by:

     (1)  Repealing the limitation that participants be Temporary Assistance and Needy Families Program recipients;

     (2)  Clarify that participants be in the first-to-work program; and

     (3)  Expanding the eligible participants to include students enrolled in an approved course of study, including vocational education.

     SECTION 2.  Section 346-68, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsections (a) and (b) to read as follows:

     "(a)  There is created within the department a post-secondary education benefits program, to be known as the bridge to hope program, for heads of households in the [temporary assistance to needy families] first to-work program.

     (b)  To receive assistance under this program, the [single parent] participant shall:

     (1)  Be enrolled as a student each term[;] in an approved course of study, including but not limited to, vocational education;

     (2)  Maintain passing grades or better throughout the course of study; and

     (3)  Meet work activity requirements as defined by the department."

     SECTION 3.  Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken.  New statutory material is underscored.

     SECTION 4.  This Act shall take effect upon its approval.